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Exeter to vote for a single district and a single seat

Exeter to vote for a single district and a single seat

If Measure G passes there will be seven seats up for grabs on the new Exeter Unified School District Board on the same ballot. But only one seat has more than one person vying to fill it.

The only contested election for the new EUSD Board is in trustee Area 5 where retired educator Virginia Padilla will challenge incumbent Jack Elam. Padilla said she is uniquely qualified for the seat after recently retiring from 40 years in education. Padilla spent 17 years teaching in the Woodlake Public Schools before serving as chief business officer for the Dinuba Unified School District. She said her experience as CBO gives her an insight into district budgets, State regulations and education accounting codes.

“I was in charge of a large budget and bring a lot of expertise to the table,” Padilla said.

Padilla said she is in favor of unification after experiencing the process in Dinuba. She said unification allows administration to spend less time dealing with duplicative issues such as less bargaining unit negotiations, less State reporting and fewer meetings.

“It means one salary schedule, a single curriculum and puts everyone on the same page,” she said. “It also makes for a more seamless transition from junior high to high school.”

Padilla said unification will also protect the district from cuts if Proposition 30, the statewide ballot measure tax to fill the budget gap in education spending, fails to pass. She said the biggest challenge to Exeter schools, unified or not, is the potential deep cuts from the State.

“We need the additional revenue in our budget,” said Padilla, referring to the estimated $1 million in annual funds the new district would gain through unification. “If Prop. 30 fails it could have a huge impact on our budget.”

Padilla said unification is just one way to take preventative measures to insure education in Exeter continues at a high level. While she does not see any specific area lacking in Exeter schools, she said there is always room for improvement. She said Exeter has great facilities but there is always new technology and grants to improve education locally.

“Education funding is important because the more programs you can offer the kids are more successful,” Padilla said. “Cuts affect the students who need help the most because it eliminates staff and programming for them.”

She said the best thing going for Exeter is its team of caring educators who continue to dedicate themselves to improving academic achievement for Exeter’s children.

While Padilla is the only name on the ballot she will be challenged by write-in candidate Jack Elam. The current Exeter Union High School Board member said he has lived in Exeter all of his life, all of his children attended Exeter schools, he has grandchildren currently attending Exeter schools and his daughter is an ag teacher at Exeter Union High School, all making him uniquely qualified for the job.

“I think serving on the school board is probably the most important responsibility a person can have in a small community,” Elam said. “It’s a big decision, so I took my time and missed the deadline to get on the ballot.

While serving out his first term on the EUHSD Board, Elam said he has valuable insight into facilities, curriculum and operations of Exeter schools. But he said his 40 years as a local business owner are more valuable when it comes to understanding what skills local students need to get a job after graduation.

“I don’t think we need a lot of educators on the school board,” he said. “We need more business people who understand the community.”

Elam said he was the last board member to vote yes on unification but said he is not opposed to the idea. He said his only concern was to let the voters decide what was right for their community.

“A great deal of the money from unification will be bringing elementary salaries up to the high school level,” Elam said. “I think all wages and salaries should be frozen during these economic times. We should make sure we are being good stewards of public money.”

Elam said looming budget cuts are always a part of education in California, but said he thinks the biggest challenge facing Exeter schools is the loss of traditional values. He said educators tend to take their lead from philosophies in more liberal parts of the state in Southern California and the Bay Area.

“We need good, conservative, traditional values in our schools,” Elam said. “We need these students to have a clear understanding of Constitutional Rights and old fashioned American common sense.”

He said one of the biggest skills local students need to improve in is mathematics. Elam said unification may help improve math scores by having a single, K-12 curriculum. However, he said the common administration between the elementary and high school district have done a good job of creating a learning environment that provides Exeter students with every opportunity to be successful.

“Our facilities are in good shape, our teachers have a good work ethic and they have instilled good work ethics in our students,” Elam said.

This is the first year that Exeter will vote using the by-trustee election method. Only voters living in Area 5 will be able to vote in the contest between Elam and Padilla.

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